Hello, long lost blog friends! I am ashamed to say that I have 206 unread items in Google Reader. I'd like to just be one of those people who can click "Mark all as read" and move on with my life. But alas, I am too afraid I will miss a big announcement or something, so I have plans to try to catch up on my blog reading and commenting at some point this weekend.
Now onto the topic at hand today: joyful acceptance.
A couple Sundays ago, our pastor did a sermon entitled: "Confined, But Contented and Highly Effective." It was one of those Sundays where the sermon just related too perfectly to everything I was going through, and I knew it wasn't a coincidence.
Here are some one-liners from the bulletin insert that hit home for me:
Life is not about what happens to you BUT it is about how you respond to what happens to you.
Attitude of joyful acceptance:
-God uses adversity to advance His cause. (Philippians 1:12 "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel").
-God's people don't whine, they shine. (Philippians 2:14-15 "Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky").
I filed the bulletin away after church, wanting to study it more, and let it really permeate my mind in the coming weeks.
Then this week, I began Beth Moore's Bible study on James. James is one of my favorite books of the Bible because I am so convicted every time I read it. When I think back on the big chapters and challenges in my life, I usually had scripture that I used as my mantra during those times. During my current challenge of infertility, James has been it. I read and outlined the book one afternoon over two years ago, because I felt God calling me to find comfort in those pages. I specifically made chapter 1 verses 2-4 my own, and would say them over and over to myself on the really difficult days. ("Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.") I wrote a whole blog post about those verses here on July 8, 2010. I can't read that post without crying. Not because I'm sad, but because I see all that God has done since the day I wrote that; all because of that one storm that has been raging on to this day.
Anyway, even though I knew I'd be busy with school, when I heard our church was doing Beth Moore's study on James, I knew that wasn't a coincidence either. I had to sign up.
It has been amazing so far. Yesterday our study was about James 1:2-4. I was so blessed in reading those pages! What struck me the most was when Beth Moore wrote, "Trials don't get to steal from followers of Christ unless we hand over the goods. In fact, they're commanded to give goods to us if we're willing to receive them. Robbers or reapers, it's up to us."
There it is, laid out in black and white: it is our choice. Our trials don't have to steal our joy! In fact, they should give us joy, if we let them!
Being reminded of that makes me feel a little uncomfortable. It makes me think of all those times when I've felt bitter, angry, jealous, frustrated, or even mad at God. Because I know that I can't blame my circumstances for feeling that way. I have to blame myself.
Going back to my sermon insert that I quoted earlier, "Life is not about what happens to you, but it is about how you respond to what happens to you."
Also, "God uses adversity to advance His cause." When I read those words a few weeks ago on that Sunday morning, I had to think. Yes, I have been facing what I consider to be adversity in the past 2+ years. Yes, I am at least trying to find the joy in those circumstances. But have they been used to advance God's cause?
It really made me think. How many people do I even come in contact with every day of my life? I have my friends, family, and acquaintances from work, school, or church, and strangers. I try to show the love of God, but I always feel like there's only so much I can do.
As I thought more about it, I realized that my biggest ministry is my blog. I know my blog is certainly not big by any means, but the number of people who read my blog everyday is usually higher than the number of people I come in contact with, face-to-face in the same day.
Then this little question popped into my head: what if I had never started my blog almost four years ago? Would God have chosen me to go through this fertility struggle if there weren't so many women whom I could share my story and His love with?
I'm not saying that I would or wouldn't be, but for a split second I wished that I didn't have a blog and my own tiny ministry. I wished that I had a baby or maybe even two by now, and that no one had ever read the words I'd written.
But then I remembered a day in December of 2010. I was taking a shower (why do most epiphanies happen in the shower? Or is that just me?) and I remember telling God that I wanted to face this trial head on, and let Him use it. I wrote this post that morning, and wrote this in the last line of that post: "I challenge you today, whatever you are going through, to face it. Trudge forward and choose to go through the flames. He will use them to refine you, strengthen your faith, and bring glory to Him!" I wrote those words, because that is exactly what I was choosing that morning.
So ultimately, after my selfish wish of never going through this trial, and never sharing my story, I remembered that I am His, and I want Him to use my life. I will go through this trial, it will bring me joy and it will advance His cause!
...and today I can say that it is bringing me joy. I feel like I've written the post a million times where I say how different my life would have been these past couple of years if things had happened differently. The post where I say that God's plan is better than my plan. But I say it again today, because it is so true!!!!
Yes, that warranted four exclamation points!
I pray that you will choose joy in your trials! I pray that you will accept all that God has for you, joyfully! And I pray that you would feel His love and peace in your heart today!